Canadian Education Centre Network gets unplugged

Private company was set up by government more than a decade ago to attract foreign students to Canadian schools

The Canadian Education Centre Network (CECN) has abruptly closed its doors.

The organization was set up in the 1990s to promote Canada as a destination for foreign students, and to assist Canadian universities, colleges and schools in recruiting foreign students. The federal government provided funding for the first few years, and then earlier in this decade told the CECN that it had to stand on its own. Apparently it couldn’t.

I’m told that a number of universities and colleges were left high and dry by the closure, in that they had already paid fees to the organization for services they are now unlikely to receive. Then again, as one poster on the story I linked to notes, the CECN’s problem was that fewer and fewer educational institutions were buying its services. Many larger schools conduct their own international recruiting and didn’t need or want CECN’s help. In other words, this story may just be a run of the mill case of one business’s failure to offer the right service at the right price, rather than some wider systemic failure. What I’ve been told suggests as much.

I’m also told that part of the reason the CECN had a tough go of it is that its operation involved running and staffing more than a dozen offices around the world. The idea was that local students with questions about Canadian education would be able to receive help and advice at those offices.  But that has to have been a very expensive undertaking. Universities and colleges weren’t willing to kick in enough cash to support that and everything else the CECN was doing and there may be a good reason for that: foreign students can get all of the information they need on the internet, at school websites and so on. Back in the late 1980s, when I wanted to do a foreign exchange program, I had to hunker down with dozens of others in my university library, where there was a little study abroad materials room. There they had assembled books and pamphlets on study abroad and work abroad mailed to them from France, the US, Finland, where ever. Lots of material was missing, pages were torn out, brochures were seven years old, and so on. Back in the day, that was the best and only way to get this kind of information into the hands of students.

That was a very long time ago.

Foreign students clearly need support and encouragement to come to Canada. But I wonder whether the CECN’s approach, which seems to have been very heavy on the bricks and mortar, and sounds a lot like my university study abroad materials room, circa-1987, makes sense?

And, if I may be permitted to blur the lines between journalism and advertising, that is why we are doing this in November.